FLORAL CHOCOLATE STICK COOKIES

I am not sure if stick cookies are a fad or here to stay, but I find them quite adorable. Easy to handle, not too big, and fun to decorate. These are intensely flavored, pretty much like an Oreo without the filling. No need for special skills with the Royal icing, it goes on the cookie as a humble flooding layer. Let that fully set overnight (really important), then use a very fine food pen to draw the design you like. Food pens and luster powder close the deal. For a demonstration on how to paint with luster powder, you can visit this post. The process is the same. Cookie cutter from Sugarbelle.

CHOCOLATE CUTOUT COOKIES
(from Baking a Moment)

113g cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes (1 stick)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
135g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
30g cornstarch (1/4 cup)
50g unsweetened cocoa powder (1/2 cup)
180g all-purpose flour (1 + 1/2 cups, you may need a little more)

Cream the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, just until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the cornstarch, cocoa powder and the flour. The dough should start to clear the sides of the bowl as you mix it in low-speed. If needed, add a bit more flour.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the dough and cut into sticks or any shape you like. Freeze the cut shapes for 10 minutes, then bake for 9 to 12 minutes. They are done when they feel firm around the edges. Cool completely, then decorate as you desire.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: To make the drawing you can transfer the design from a printed picture using tissue paper, or use a mini-projector, which makes the process quite straightforward. I am the lucky recipient of an AKASO mini-projector, early Birthday-anniversary gift from my beloved. As I mentioned recently, he is taken, so you can stop your shenanigans.

I am very fond of simple designs with an Oriental flair. There are countless images available around (like these from Cake Central). Stained-glass compositions are also a wonderful source of inspiration. I’ve been collecting images to play with in cookie-format. Once you decide on the image, it is just a matter of playing with colors. The food pen goes on smoothly and the luster powder brings a very subtle texture. I like to join both in the same design, which I did in the cookie with red flowers.

The red flowers were painted with food pen (Americolor Gourmet Writer), the leaves are luster powder Khaki, and the centers Super Blue, both from OhSweetArt.

I am still trying to find my way through the path of mini-projector and cookie painting. The gray cats were painted with luster powder, the black with food pen. The flowers were also a mixture, food pen for the orange and green, luster powder in gold for the center.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sally’s Spicy Mango and Coconut Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Bouillabaise for a Chilly Evening

THREE YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

SIX YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

NINE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

TEN YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH

I’ve been struggling with bread stencils lately. My designs end up not as sharp as I hoped them to be, lack of contrast after baking, all sorts of annoying little disappointments. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, after watching videos from bread guru Morgi. I will share a couple of tips today, in case you’d like to use this method to decorate your bread.

CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10g peanut flour
7g charcoal powder
10g salt
370g water
100g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the three types of flour, charcoal and salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. If the dough seems too soft, add a bit more bread flour. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours, or even sooner than that.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, if the surface seems moist you can place the stencil right away on top of it. If it seems dry, spray lightly with water and position the stencil. Shower some white rice flour on the stencil and rub gently with the fingers of your right hand as you steady the stencil with your left hand (do the opposite if you are left-handed). The idea is to rub the flour on the surface through the openings of the stencil, so that you get a good pattern formed. Carefully lift the stencil and slash the bread around it, so that the bread will not open and compromise the image.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you use a banneton for the final rise of your shaped loaf and it glues to it when you try to invert it to bake, you know that can be VERY frustrating. Sometimes it even distorts the beautiful shape achieved slowly overnight in the fridge. I normally add quite a bit of flour to the banneton before the dough goes in, but when I want to do the stencil decoration, I prefer not to have too much flour on the surface to start with. My tip is simple: place a plastic wrap (like Saran-wrap or other brands) inside the banneton and THEN add your bread – it does not prevent the ridges from making that cute impression on the surface (although it will be slightly less evident) and you will have NO issues inverting the dough to bake.

For the image to be sharp and evident, the trick is to have a little moisture on the dough, and rub the flour, gently but firmly. Hold the stencil in place with one hand, and rub the flour with the other. Lift the stencil as delicately as humanly possible. Finally, whatever design you choose, slash the bread in ways that coach the opening away from the design. You can cut four deep slashes in a square shape with the design in the center, or do what I did, a circular series of small, deep cuts all around.

Peanut flour has no fat, but transfers the taste of peanuts quite well to the bread. It has a softer crumb than a straight sourdough with just bread and whole-wheat flours. And the charcoal contributes no taste. When we freeze slices after a couple of days, we like to cut one or two into croutons, because they look pretty amazing in that shocking black color.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Cake with Coconut Buttercream

TWO YEARS AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts 

THREE YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

FOUR YEAR AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

SIX YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

NINE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

TEN YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

MONET’S GLAZED CARROTS

Surprised by the title of this post? Monet was not only a great painter, but also a lover of good food. When we visited his home/museum in Giverny a few years ago, Phil bought the book “Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet”, full of wonderful pictures of his garden and home, including the amazing kitchen. The book even shares a recipe for his favorite cake that he requested every year for his Birthday. That very cake was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off a few years ago. Browsing the recipes, the first thing I noticed is how cooking changed over the decades. We now rely so much on ingredients, spices and produce from all over the world. Miso, pomegranate molasses, harissa, dried limes… In Monet’s time it was all quite different. One of the components that was present in many recipes – even the most basic veggie concoctions – was rich beef or chicken broth. For the most part, that was how they intensified flavors. This is a recipe for glazed carrots that intrigued me because it is so different from the way I “understand” glazed carrots. I made it, we loved it, therefore I share…

MONET’S GLAZED CARROTS
(adapted from Monet’s Table)

3 cups of carrots, cut in slices, not too thin, not to thick
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
4 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup beef broth (I used canned from Rachael Ray)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (yes, you read that correctly)
additional parsley to serve (optional)

Cook the carrots in 3 cups salted boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.

In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, reserved carrot cooking liquid, and the beef broth. Stir well, then add the lemon juice, powdered sugar and carrots. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to as low as it will go, and leave the lid slightly open so that the liquid will reduce. Cook for one hour, or until the carrots are cooked and glazed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Several things intrigued me about this recipe. I never imagined starting with a roux, using beef broth, and adding a touch of powdered sugar. It also seemed like an awfully long time to cook the carrots. The whole time I kept telling myself – this won’t have a happy ending. But I was proved wrong, way wrong. It ended up less sweet than some of the glazed carrots I’ve made in the past, and with more complex flavor, which I am sure comes from the beef broth.

This was a Polar Vortex dinner that we cooked together. I made the carrots, and Phil prepared a pot roast, simple but I must say it turned out outstanding (sorry ladies, he is taken). To deglaze the pan to make the gravy, he used some of the water I cooked the carrots and that was a winning move. A real back to basics meal. Which sometimes is all we need.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brownies, Three Ways

TWO YEARS AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

THREE YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FIVE YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

SIX YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

EIGTH YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

NINE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

I WILL CRACKER YOU UP

THIS IS MY 1,400th BLOG POST!

Crackers are a lot of fun to make and bake. Ok, there is the rolling step to consider but if you are not too wild about a rolling pin and elbow grease, a pasta machine attachment can do wonders for the ones that need to be super thin. Today I share four recipes. Salted Egg Yolk Crackers and Moroccan Tortitas are quite unusual, different from any kind I’ve ever had. A copy-cat version of a Trader Joe’s favorite is a bit more involved to make but pretty amazing to eat. And finally, a lightning-fast Sourdough Cracker that can be made quite dramatic with a small amount of charcoal powder. Grab your flour, and let’s get crackin’!

SALTED EGG YOLK COOKIES
(from Dana’s Wakeandbakemama)

240g plain flour
15g cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon milk powder
4 salted egg yolks (use this recipe to make them)
170g butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
85g sugar

Topping:
1 egg yolk + a little water for wash
1 tablespoon each of black and white sesame seeds

Make the egg yolks at least one day in advance, preferably a couple of days, so they are nice and dry. Once it is ready, smash with fork or pastry cutter until crumbled and set aside.

In separate bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and milk powder. In the mixer bowl, add butter, salt and sugar. Mix until well incorporated. Add smashed salted egg yolks and sifted flours until well combined. Chill dough for a few minutes. If it gets too cold it will crack easily. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick and use any cutter you desire. Place them on lined cookie sheets and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sesame seeds in a small bowl and mix. Remove cookies from refrigerator and brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Dana called them cookies, and it’s true, they are cookies. But their flavor is so unique, I see them quite well as “crackers”, going well with sweet or savory items. They are addictive, with a very intriguing texture. Definitely, the salted egg yolk talking. For people who bake macarons often (if the shoe fits, I better wear it), salted egg yolks are a great ingredient to play with.

MOROCCAN TORTITAS
(slightly adapted from The Jewish Journal)

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp anise oil
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tsp baking powder
2 and a half cups all-purpose flour

In large bowl on stand-up mixer, mix eggs, sugar and oil until well blended. Add the anise extract, seeds and baking powder and mix. While mixing, add flour half a cup at a time and continue to mix until the dough forms a ball. You may not need all the flour, or you may need a little bit more, it all depends on the size of your eggs and the moisture of the flour. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Divide dough in tennis ball-size pieces. Roll out dough as thinly as possible, a pasta rolling machine works great. Pierce dough with fork or decorating tool. Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to cut in circles. Bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool for several hours, as they get crunchy as they fully dry.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Don’t let the humble look of these crackers prevent you from making them. Much like the Salted Egg Yolk version, you will grab one and go back to munch on another. Fantastic with hummus. I made them twice, first time with a pasta roller machine (the ones in the photo), second time rolling by hand. They turned out slightly thicker when rolled by hand, but equally delicious. They keep very well at room temperature.

TRADER JOE’S CRACKERS WITH RAISINS AND ROSEMARY
(from Luci’s Morsels)

1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup each white and whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 + 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
extra salt for top

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one large bread loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine raisins, seeds, and almonds in a small bowl. Stir to combine, and reserve. In a large bowl, combine flours, rosemary, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, and syrup. Mix in fruit, nuts, and seeds. Pour batter into loaf pan. Sprinkle top with salt.

Bake 35 minutes until top is firm. Let bread come to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours or overnight. The cold bread helps with thinner slicing.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove bread from freezer. Let sit 10 minutes to thaw slightly. With a serrated knife, cut 1/8-inch slices. Slices should be as uniform as possible. Place slices cut side down on an ungreased pan. Bake 8-10 minutes until crackers are a deep golden brown and corners start to crisp. Let cool completely for best texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Whenever we have a chance to stop by Trader Joe’s, we get a couple of boxes of their delicious crackers. I am usually disappointed with copy-cat recipes, but I love these crackers so much, I decided to give the recipe a chance. I am very glad I did. Off all the versions I am sharing today, this is by far the most involved. Think about biscotti, but even a little worse because you need to cut the slices very very thin before the second baking. As you place the slices in the oven for the second bake, pay attention to how they are baking, because small variations in thickness will affect the outcome. Chances are you will have to remove some crackers before others are done baking. For my taste, these crackers are very close to perfection. Sweet, savory, crunchy, they are perfect with any type of cheese or jam.

My dear friend Heather from California designed a recipe for another copy-cat version of a wonderful cracker, the brand is called Raincoast, maybe you’ve seen them in grocery stores. They can be super expensive, actually. Her recipe, which she called Suncoast Crisps, is another big winner, but I don’t feel it’s fair to share it. It took her quite a bit of work to perfect it, so I will leave it as a teaser…. These have pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and pecans.

20 MINUTE SOURDOUGH CRACKERS
(slightly modified from Phil’s Home Kitchen)

50g sourdough starter
50g bread flour
2g fine salt
charcoal powder to achieve desired color (1/2 tsp or more)
cold water to mix
olive oil
sesame seeds, black and white

Heat the oven to 400F. Mix the starter, flour, salt and charcoal powder in a bowl. Add enough water to give a soft but not sticky dough. Knead for a moment until smooth, but you do not need to knead the dough as fully as you would for full bread.

Take pieces of dough and either roll it by hand or pass it through the pasta machine: start with the widest setting 0, increasing a setting at a time until you get to two-settings before the last, thinnest one. That ensures a thin enough dough that won’t tear. You can bake it in large pieces and then break them in random shapes, or if you roll it by hand, make the dough thicker and cut in diamonds, squares, or circles. Brush the surface very lightly with olive oil and immediately sprinkle sesame seeds all over.

Bake over parchment paper for 10 minutes, turning the pieces over after 7 minutes or so. If baking large pieces uncut, cool completely before breaking them.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

The composite above shows the two types of dough, rolled by pasta machine, very thin, or rolled by hand and cut in diamonds. The dough rolled in the machine will give a very crisp texture, whereas the other one will still retain some bread quality in it.

I cannot quite pick a favorite in this group, I really like them all. I make the sourdough version more often because it is so easy. The starter does not even have to be fully active. Stop by Phil’s blog for instructions on how to use regular yeast, if you prefer. One of my goals is to bake Ak-Mak from scratch, but that has proven quite tricky. I found a couple of recipes online but they were not even remotely close to the real thing. I am tempted to improvise from the ingredients list in the box, but have not yet gathered the energy for it. Stay tuned, if I get to Nirvana, I’ll share my recipe with you. Come to think of it, I might enlist the help of Heather to reach my goal…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pickling Ribbons

TWO  YEARS AGO: Green Beans and Carrots with Spicy Almonds

THREE YEARS AGO: Quiche 101

FOUR YEARS AGO: Persian Butternut Squash Soup

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut Cranberry Sourdough Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

EIGHT YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

NINE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

TEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

George likes his chicken spicy!

We like ours spicy too, but the beautiful thing about Kung Pao is that you can tame it to your favorite degree of heat by playing with the type of peppers you add, or reducing the amount of its most important ingredient: Szechuan peppercorns. Daredevils out there, pair Szechuan with Habaneros! Just make sure to have the firemen on speed dial…

KUNG PAO CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

to marinate the chicken:
3 boneless/skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon dry sherry
3 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the stir-fry:
4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper seeded and diced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced (or another hot pepper of your choice)
1 tablespoon (or to taste) Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
1/2 cup roasted/unsalted peanuts
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Combine all ingredients for the chicken in a shallow bowl; cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil, allow to heat up, then add marinated chicken. Stir-fry chicken for a few minutes, until edges are browned, which will happen reasonably quickly because of the baking soda. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add remaining cooking oil to the pan, stir in ginger, bell peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Pour the reserved sauce into the pan and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken pieces, and heat everything together for a couple more minutes. Add the peanuts, sesame oil, and serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Szechuan peppers are quite special. They have a numbing effect, quite different from any other pepper and they are pretty much mandatory in a Kung Pao. I used a mortar and pestle to grind it, some recipes tell you to toast them lightly before grinding, but I used them fresh from the bag.

Marinating the chicken with the baking soda for 30 minutes is a quicker version of velveting, and worked pretty nicely, the meat developed that texture we all love in Chinese cooking. A little white rice, some green beans and all of a sudden we realized that Kung Pao is a nice antidote for the Polar Vortex.

ONE YEAR AGO: Galette de Rois

TWO YEARS AGO: Sous-Vide Overnight Oatmeal

THREE YEARS AGO: A Valentine’s Day Opera

FOUR YEARS AGO: Incredibly Simple Times Four

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut-Cranberry Sourdough Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

EIGHT YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

NINE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

TEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

KUNG PAO CHICKEN
(adapted from